McCain Veepstakes: A Woman?

McCain VP Female Candidates From left to right, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Photo: Composite image by Politico.com David Paul Kuhn argues that John McCain should strongly consider choosing a woman as his vice presidential running mate in order to woo angry Hillary Clinton supporters. That premise strikes me as absurd, in that no Republican woman is going to be a suitable substitute for Clinton in the minds of her supporters. Still, reaching out to women as a means of attracting moderates is worth exploring.

Kuhn considers Condoleeza Rice the obvious choice but takes her at her word that she isn’t interested. Instead, he focuses on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Palin, 44, would add youth to the GOP ticket. As governor she has shown a willingness to veto some of the state’s large capital projects, no small plus for fiscal conservatives. But it’s her personal biography, which excites social conservatives, and reformist background that might most appeal to McCain.

She’s stridently anti-abortion, and recently brought to term her fifth child — who she knew would have Down syndrome. A hunter, fisher and family woman with a rapid professional rise, Palin is a natural for Republican framing.

Palin has become a darling of the conservative blogosphere in recent months and has been touted quite a bit. She’s no doubt a rising star. But it makes little sense to nominate a 44-year-old with no foreign policy experience to be one heartbeat away from the presidency on a ticket whose principal message is that it’s risky to put a 44-year-old with relatively little foreign policy experience in charge of our nation’s security.

Fiorina is also already close to McCain. The two of them recently sat down at his Arlington headquarters with frustrated Clinton supporters and urged them to shift their political allegiance to him. On the campaign trail and on shows like CBS News “Face the Nation,” she’s served as a ubiquitous advocate of the candidate. Privately, she has also become one of McCain’s most trusted economic advisers.

That sounds like the résumé of a future Treasury Secretary, Fed Chairman, or Council of Economic Advisers chair. The vice presidency would be an odd entry job into politics. And, again, aside from trade issues, what’s her international relations background?

Hutchison had already engaged on McCain’s behalf, defending his embrace of the controversial conservative Pastor John Hagee earlier this year and making the rounds as a surrogate on the Sunday political shows (including an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”), though, like McCain, it’s a medium that does not suit her. And also like McCain, she is not a gifted campaigner.

In Texas, where she has been comfortably reelected, one Republican strategist notes that she’s “proven she can get scores of Hispanics in a huge state surrogate.”

I saw her on “This Week,” which I inadvertently TiVo’d. Rather than risk falling asleep at 11 a.m., I soon fast forwarded to the roundtable. She reinforces McCain’s negatives without bringing anything.

Palin would be my initial favorite if forced to chose from among these three candidates. But, surely, there are better choices? Going the extra mile to look at women and minority candidates makes sense; picking a weak candidate simply to fill a quota, however, does not.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Gender Issues, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Beldar says:

    McCain has plenty of foreign policy experience. It’s his long suit.

    He needs someone to complement him, yet who shares some of his basic qualities and attitudes.

    I just finished reading Kaylene Johnson’s biography of Sarah Palin, and after learning more of the details about the established GOP fat-cats she whipped to become governor — she methodically drove from public office the sitting GOP state chairman, attorney general, and governor, all of whom were ethically challenged — I’m more convinced than ever that she’s the right person to both fit and balance a ticket with McCain.

    She’s been in public office since 1992, albeit some of that at a local level in a large state with a small population. She’s actually done the reform that Obama claims to be all about, but actually has never done. If she can roughly match the Dems’ top-of-the-ticket in experience, the combination of her and McCain ought to be a persuasive one.

  2. Michael says:

    I would think that Elizabeth Dole would be on the list, except maybe for her age.

  3. mw says:

    “it makes little sense to nominate a 44-year-old with no foreign policy experience to be one heartbeat away from the presidency …” – jj

    But on the other hand, she is kind of hot looking.

    I’m going with the hotness factor.

  4. Bithead says:

    Palin would be a good choice, but if I recall rightly, she’s got some health concerns with a kid that would be a bit of a distraction.

  5. Hope Muntz says:

    “makes no sense to nominate a 44-year-old with no foreign policy experience”?

    Oh, I get it. She shouldn’t be nominated until she’s 46…

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    Would a lack of foreign policy experience disqualify all governors from serving at POTUS or VP? Carter, Clinton, and Bush were all governors with limited experience in that arena.

  7. Dave from Illinois says:

    That’s the worst picture of Sarah Palin anyone could ever take. Is that horrible picture posted on purpose?

    How about one of these instead?

  8. James Joyner says:

    He needs someone to complement him, yet who shares some of his basic qualities and attitudes.

    The problem, though, is that McCain is 72 and people will rightly view his VP as having a better than average chance of acceding to the presidency.

    Would a lack of foreign policy experience disqualify all governors from serving at POTUS or VP?

    It might on a McCain ticket this season. Again, the need for foreign policy leadership is the key issue — arguably, the only issue — that McCain has in his bid to beat Obama.

  9. Derrick says:

    Palin would be a good choice, but if I recall rightly, she’s got some health concerns with a kid that would be a bit of a distraction.

    I think Bithead is exactly right on this one. It’s hard for me to see conservative women truly embracing a woman who is going to leave her bushel of very young children to hit the campaign trail and take the 2nd most powerful position in the country. I remember all of the initial shots at Elizabeth Edwards, and I can only imagine that it won’t be as much of a bonus as some think.

  10. Michael says:

    Would a lack of foreign policy experience disqualify all governors from serving at POTUS or VP? Carter, Clinton, and Bush were all governors with limited experience in that arena.

    It’s not the lack of foreign policy experience that would make her a bad choice, it’s the fact that it would take away McCain’s ability to use the “lack of foreign policy experience” criticism against Obama.

    You don’t want somebody on your ticket with the very attributes of your opponent that you plan on using to turn public opinion against him.

  11. muffler says:

    hehehe – they are looking like the democratic party in the eighties more and more. Oh and no more people from the Texas GOP should be allowed to run. I think they have done enough damage.

  12. James Joyner says:

    It’s not the lack of foreign policy experience that would make her a bad choice, it’s the fact that it would take away McCain’s ability to use the “lack of foreign policy experience” criticism against Obama.

    You don’t want somebody on your ticket with the very attributes of your opponent that you plan on using to turn public opinion against him.

    Exactly right.

  13. Wayne says:

    If McCain chooses a woman VP it will be played off as nothing more than a political stunt. It could work if the candidate is a hardcore conservative which he needs anyway to shore up his support with conservatives. It would not surprise me if McCain looses from him taking his base for granted. Picking off some in the middle isn’t a bad strategy but base turnout is much more important. The last three major elections are good examples of that.

  14. Fence says:

    It is also an interesting question of who (McCain or Obama) should announce their pick FIRST. Both are apparently considering women, but McCain in particular might balk at being the second one to do so.

    But notwithstanding all the buzz about disaffected Hillary supporters, I’d be surprised if Obama takes someone other than a white guy’s white guy.

    Perhaps most of the people who would disapprove of Pallin being VP with a sick child aren’t that likely to be Obama supporters anyway. But maybe it adds fuel to the fire that McCain isn’t sufficiently conservative and causes more social conservatives to stay home?

  15. Ted says:

    And read this from another blogger — eloquently and concisely said:

    “The following is addressed to John McCain urging him to select Sarah Palin for a VP.

    “First and foremost, Sarah Palin shares your values. She killed the bridge to nowhere. Need we say more?

    As for the politics, Sarah Palin transcends geography. Her constituency, like yours, goes beyond state lines.

    She will get your ticket access to voters all over the country based on who she is and what she stands for. Because she’s young, a woman, a mother with young kids, she will grab media attention more than any other potential candidate.

    Gov. Palin also has a son in the active duty military. You have very wisely taken your son’s service in Iraq off the table as a campaign talking point. That is and should be respected. But others can talk about it and reflect on what it means.

    A McCain-Palin administration would be the first in memory, which has family members in uniform during wartime from both the President and Vice President. That would be a powerful statement as to the importance of national service, especially in uniform.

    Most importantly, any Vice President should be ready to step up and serve in the event she is needed. Frankly, who is really ever ready? Gov. Palin is as ready as anybody, she is a quick learner, and in her public career has exhibited the courage and decisiveness needed for a great leader.

    Godspeed to you in your campaign and in making this important decision.”

  16. Beldar says:

    It’s not the lack of foreign policy experience that would make her a bad choice, it’s the fact that it would take away McCain’s ability to use the “lack of foreign policy experience” criticism against Obama.

    We know, beyond any doubt, that Obama will try to use McCain’s age as an issue — he’s already doing that, and his MSM proxies are helping. (One WaPo opinion piece last week started off by saying if McCain keeps swiveling on the issues, he’s going to break a hip.)

    That will have some traction with some voters, regardless of who McCain picks as his veep nominee.

    But one doesn’t run for president on the assumption that one’s going to drop dead your first week in office. (Although the last time that actually did happen, the resulting new president was the youngest and among the least experienced in the nation’s history — and he eventually did well enough to have his face carved on Mount Rushmore.)

    In 1980, Ronald Reagan was then the oldest candidate for president ever to be nominated. He wisely chose for his running-mate someone who was complementary to his own skills, George H.W. Bush, whose resume was among the strongest, especially on foreign policy credentials, of any Veep noiminee ever. Of the two, however, Reagan himself was by far more dynamic, and he not only beat the younger Jimmy Carter but then, four years later, beat the younger (“youth[ful] and inexperience]d]”) Fritz Mondale.

    As it was with Reagan, McCain’s age is obvious; he cracks wise about it regularly, describing himself as “older than dirt.” But his health is good, and he’s been forthright in releasing his medical records (in sharp contrast to Obama).

    As between Palin and Obama, Palin has a better objective claim to experience and success. She’s been an elected official longer. She’s gotten lots more done. Her record despite her youth becomes, then, an asset in highlighting not Obama’s inexperience as measured in years, but his lack of substance as measured in accomplishments.

    I watched Tom Ridge on one of the Sunday talk shows, and believe me, he made Kay Bailey Hutchison seem absolutely like a Broadway show-stopper. If McCain decides to pick someone like that, he might as well start lining up Viagra commercials for 2009 along with Bob Dole.

    Finally: Yes, in April Gov. Palin had to interrupt her visit to Houston to a governors’ association meeting to return to Alaska to give birth to her and her husband’s second son, their fifth child overall, who they named “Trig.” Her oldest son, “Track,” is in the Army, and she has two teenage daughters along with a pre-teen daughter, all adorable. Track was the lone dissenting voice among her family members when, in 2004, she considered challenging Lisa Murkowski, whose father, as governor, had named her to an open Senate seat, and whom Gov. Palin ended up whipping soundly in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary. For the 2006 run, though, the whole family was on board.

    Gov. Palin became pregnant with Trig while in office, and learned that he’d likely be afflicted with Down Syndrome mid-pregnancy. Going to term was a deliberate decision, and her entire family has welcomed Trig as a blessing, not a liability. If she were asked and turned down a Veep nomination because she’s already fully extended, no one could blame her. But I’d say she’s demonstrated already a pretty good ability for juggling roles as mom and executive officer, and she’s clearly ambitious. I’ve seen nothing to suggest that she’s dampening speculation about a Veep spot. And traditionally, the job requirements of being Veep are actually considerably less pressing than the job requirements of being a state governor.

  17. Michael says:

    We know, beyond any doubt, that Obama will try to use McCain’s age as an issue — he’s already doing that, and his MSM proxies are helping. (One WaPo opinion piece last week started off by saying if McCain keeps swiveling on the issues, he’s going to break a hip.)

    (Not sure why this was in reply to my comments, but I’ll run with it anyway) And that is exactly why Obama can’t pick anybody from McCain’s age range for his VP.

    There’s a difference between someone who will complement your own attributes, and someone who will either negate your positives, or negate your opponent’s negatives.

  18. Beldar says:

    Michael: Yes, the “heartbeat away from the presidency” point can’t be dismissed.

    On the other hand, George H.W. Bush made what’s generally considered the most disastrous Veep choice of the last 40 years with Dan Quayle, and it neither cost him the election in 1988 nor contributed to his defeat in any significant way in 1992.

    Since then, there’s a pretty good argument to be made that Al Gore and Dick Cheney have transformed the office of the VP into something close to an actual partnership with the president. And that’s the way a McCain/Palin ticket could be and should be marketed: Not that she’d just go to funerals in foreign countries, but that she’d apply the same zeal to actually governing in Washington as she has in Alaska.

    The number one and two issues this fall are shaping up to be (1) energy costs and (2) foreign policy (including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the GWOT generally). It’s hard to say which will be more important, but as of today, I’d actually put them in that order. McCain has commanding authority on the second issue. Palin could very quickly step into a commanding role on the first.

    She is already a highly articulate, very persuasive advocate for aggressive (but environmentally sensitive) development of energy resources from her home state. That was her focus as chair of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, and it’s been her primary focus since she was elected governor in 2006 (with actual results in terms of proposing and passing legislation). But she also has a demonstrated record of standing up to big oil companies in that process, having replaced a tax structure that was arranged by her predecessor in closed-door sessions with a new, slightly higher, and vastly more transparent tax structure. She’s setting the big three oil companies in Alaska (BP, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil) against each other and against potential other competitors in developing a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope that will finally address Alaskans’ own energy needs as well as eventually help provide natural gas to the continental 48.

    McCain could declare that she’s to be his energy czar on the day he announces her selection, and she would dominate the issue for the remainder of the election season. Not because of what she might do if McCain croaks, but for what she will do as his partner in the McCain/Palin administration. Now that’s something that will attract votes — something that will rally the GOP base, but simultaneously attract independents, cross-overs, and escapees from the Obama cult who are looking for someone else with charisma to believe in.

  19. Michael says:

    Beldar,
    I’m not saying she wouldn’t be a good VP, I’m just saying that if McCain picks her, he’d better pick a new angle of attack too.

  20. Beldar says:

    If her experience and accomplishments are objectively equal to, or even superior to, Obama’s, why would McCain not be free to continue to point out Obama’s lack of same? He’s at the top of the Dem ticket. If hers matches his, it’s a net win for McCain when his own experience is also factored in.

  21. James Joyner says:

    If her experience and accomplishments are objectively equal to, or even superior to, Obama’s, why would McCain not be free to continue to point out Obama’s lack of same?

    Barack Obama’s no more qualified to be president than my choice for vice president! I’m not sure that’s a winning argument.

  22. Floyd says:

    I say trump Obama! John McCain should choose Alan Keyes for VP. Certainly he’s better qualified than the rest of the field.[pardon the understatement]

  23. James Joyner says:

    John McCain should choose Alan Keyes for VP. Certainly he’s better qualified than the rest of the field.

    Based on what, exactly? He’s lost every race he’s ever run. Including, incidentally, one against Obama for the Senate seat the latter currently holds.

  24. James,

    Good point on Keyes. I must admit to laughing when I saw that windbags name there.

    On the women, I would favor Carly Fiorina. She’s very accomplished, largely self-made, and would add to his economic shortfall. He doesn’t need any shoring up in foreign policy experience and, unless he dies within months of winning, she’ll have time to get the experience she needs.

  25. Michael says:

    On the women, I would favor Carly Fiorina. She’s very accomplished, largely self-made, and would add to his economic shortfall.

    She was very unpopular at HP, with many people thinking her decision to merge with Compaq was a bad business move, eventually getting her fired as CEO. I had some friends who worked at HP at the time, and every one of them was trilled when she left. Combined that with her support of increased H1-B visas, and she will probably turn off many Republicans in the tech industry.

  26. Floyd says:

    James;
    Based on qualifications to do the job.[lol]
    Alas! electability will continue to yield the scatological results we now have.
    So how about another Mr.[or Ms.]Hankey??
    Howdy Ho!!

  27. Floyd says:

    James; your reference to Keyes campaign against Obama must be disingenuous considering facts surrounding it.
    If the particulars of that race were to be known nationally, it would hurt Obama’s chances for president.
    How about a television special called “The Life and times of David Axelrod” [written by something other than a sycophant sympathizer]